Cindy’s UK Tour #5: The Giant’s Causeway and the Legend of Finn McCool – Ballycastle, Northen Ireland

The Giant’s Causeway and the Legend of Finn McCool
I left Galway to venture towards Ballycastle, Northern Ireland because I really wanted to see the Giant’s Causeway. It was second on my list after Stonehenge so I couldn’t miss it and so I rearranged my itinerary to accommodate it. Okay, so I really didn’t have an itinerary in the true sense of the word but I did have a master list of places that I had to explore.

The journey there wasn’t the straightest, especially since I was travelling in the off-season but ten (10) hours and many bus changes later I arrived in Ballycastle. Hey, on the up side I did get to see quite a bit of scenery and countryside.

I stayed at the Castle Hostel, which is a warm friendly place � especially the common room as it has a coal fireplace � that is located basically right on the bus stop and the beach. Ballycastle is a cute little town with all the necessary things that a town needs, including a good fish & chip shop (on the main street, just up from the supermarket). There is a nice beach for walking and hearing the surf crash as well. Okay, so I had already mentioned the beach but I like walking on them and this one had sand.

The next day dawned bright and clear so I caught the first bus to the Giant’s Causeway to spend the day hiking and exploring the natural phenomenon. It definitely was the perfect day for it. I stopped at the Visitor’s Centre first and picked up some postcards (well, I am a traveller) and a map of the hiking trails in and around the Causeway and started walking. I took picture after picture, both of the Causeway itself and the cliffs that make up this section of the Causeway Coast.

The scenery was spectacular to say the least. The entire coast in beautiful and worthy of viewing in it’s own right but that was just a bonus so I headed down to the Giant’s Causeway for a closer inspection. I spent about an hour climbing all over the Causeway and examining the rocks. Did you know that they are mainly six (6) sided but come in five (5) � eight (8) sided shapes as well. The really neat thing is the sides tend to be quite equal. There was nothing for me to do but climb about until I found a rock for each shape.

After I had my fill of the Giant’s Causeway and had taken its picture from every perspective that I could think of, I set out on a serious hike. I decided to take the five (5) mile hike along the cliff top to a ruined castle. This particular hike was chosen because of the gorgeous scenery that it afforded and that I would be walking towards Ballycastle. The walk was quite beautiful and serene, especially after the mob of people on the Causeway itself. But since most of the people just visit the Causeway and don’t venture on any of the hikes, it was almost like I had it to myself. Just remember to wear comfortable hiking boots that you don’t mind getting dirty because the last part of the hike is through farmer’s fields.

The castle at the end of the hike is a bit anti-climactic after the outstanding scenery but it is quite a nice ruin and you can walk right up to it for free. I ended up with an hour to kill before the bus was due to arrive so I decided to walk towards the next village � Ballintoy � to catch the bus there. I witnessed a beautiful sunset just before I arrived which made the walk extra special. I ended up taking over two rolls of pictures that day and had an enjoyable 11-mile hike altogether. My feet were a little tender and my body pleasantly tired but it was well worth it.

The following day taught me that one could rely too much on the information in guidebooks. I had planned on taking the ferry from Ballycastle to the Kintyre Peninsula of Scotland and from there journey to the Isle of Bute where my job was waiting me. According to my guidebook this was possible but in reality it wasn’t. Oh, last year it would have been but the ferry stopped running due to some dispute and I found that I had to make completely alternate arrangements. Ever notice that the new plans are never quite as good as the old ones?

I ended up going to Belfast to catch a ferry over to Scotland but the ferry that I wanted to take (Sea Cat ferry to Troon) wasn’t running due to rough water so it was time for Plan C. I ended up taking the Stena Line ferry to Strainer, Scotland. The crossing was quite rough but the Captain was very good. I don’t get seasick, probably because I grew up boating. In fact, I enjoyed the rocking but there were several green faces.

I did eventually make it to Bute but it was another long day of travelling. The adventure almost made me think of making plans in advance but I still think that flying (or taking the ferry, bus or train) by the seat of your pants adds spice to the journey.

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